When the South Carolina offense must pick up key yards, there’s one guy quarterback Connor Shaw can always turn to.
That would be Mike Davis, who finds a way to keep drives going. The sophomore tailback does it whether he’s taking handoffs or hauling in short passes. Using a combination of quickness and toughness, Davis made sure the Gamecocks came away with a 35-28 victory against Kentucky on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Mike Davis made crucial runs when we needed them,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said.
The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Davis, from Lithonia, Ga., finished with 106 yards on 21 carries — including touchdown runs of 22 yards and 1 yard in the first half — and caught three passes for 54 yards.
His biggest carries came in the fourth quarter, when a 5-yard run picked up one first down and a 7-yard run picked up another first down that allowed the Gamecocks to run out the clock without the Wildcats getting the ball back.
Those runs helped make up for his fumble last week that allowed Central Florida to mount a fourth-quarter rally.
“I feel better,” Davis said. “I’m glad coach Spurrier has trust in me to give me the ball and stay in the game to run the clock out. That shows they trust in me.”
He has quickly matured into a workhouse back through the first five games. He has rushed for 614 yards on 92 carries — an average of 6.7 yards per carry and 122.8 yards per game. And he has shown a nose for the end zone with eight rushing touchdowns. But his value doesn’t end there. He also has caught 12 passes for 181 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per catch.
“I expected some of the success,” Davis said. “The more I play, the more I’m getting the game to slow down.”
With backup tailback Brandon Wilds out with an elbow injury for several weeks, the burden falls on Davis to handle the large bulk of the carries. Shon Carson managed 7 yards on three carries, and true freshman David Williams did not play.
“I always prepare for things like this,” Davis said. “If one person goes down, another person has to step up.”
The Gamecocks pulled out to a 27-7 lead after three quarters, thanks to the offensive work of Davis and quarterback Connor Shaw, who passed for 262 yards and rushed for 50. But the offense then had to watch as the defense allowed the Wildcats to get back into the game in the final quarter.
“It’s kind of frustrating, but I think it’s something we just have to work on as a team,” Davis said. “We’ll get through it.”